Economic Report: The U.S. economy speeds up, leading index shows, but it could run into road bumps

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The numbers: The U.S. leading index rose 0.3% in February and signaled a pickup in economic growth as omicron faded and governments lifted restrictions. But there’s also more bumps in the road ahead.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.3% increase. The index had fallen sharply in the first month of the year amid a record wave of coronavirus cases.

The LEI is a weighted gauge of 10 indicators designed to signal business-cycle peaks and valleys.

Key details: A measure of current economic conditions increased 0.4% in February, the Conference Board said Friday. The privately run company is the publisher of the report.

The so-called lagging index — a look of sorts in the rearview mirror — was unchanged.

Big picture: The U.S. economy has revved up after a slow start to the year, but the road ahead could be uneven. Inflation has soared to a 40- year high and is forcing the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

The war in Ukraine could also add strains to the global economy and perhaps even add to inflationary pressures in the short run.

Looking ahead: “The global economic impact of the war on supply chains and soaring energy, food, and metals prices — coupled with rising interest rates, existing labor shortages, and high inflation — all pose headwinds to U.S. economic growth.,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at the board.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.14%  and S&P 500 SPX, +0.17% fell in Friday trades after three days in a row of big gains.

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